Developing an omnichannel supply chain strategy is essential to remaining competitive. This means enabling both order fulfillment and returns through various locations and methods, such as in your own or affiliate brick-and-mortar retail stores, as well as through digital stores. Not only does this offer a more convenient experience for the customer, but it also creates additional revenue opportunities that you may otherwise miss. When executed effectively, this positive experience builds customer loyalty and leads to repeat purchases.
However, allowing multiple ways to purchase, receive and return products inevitably adds complexity to your existing operations and systems. According to Multichannel Merchant, while 91 percent of US merchants currently have an omnichannel strategy in place, less than 10 percent of those retailers and brands claim to have mastered the approach and technology. Here are four key areas of focus to ensure effective implementation of your omnichannel strategy.
1. Simplify inventory management
As products are fulfilled and returned in different ways than before, product tracking and inventory management becomes increasingly complex and impacts demand planning. If you have not yet invested in a warehouse management system (WMS) for your operations, it will be an essential tool in enabling your omnichannel strategy. Implementing or modifying your system will ensure you have the most accurate, up-to-date information to track your product demand patterns so you can most effectively manage inventory placement.
2. Improve order speed and accuracy
As omnichannel enablement becomes more prevalent, consumer demands are also increasing. When you consider the changes you need to make to your operations to meet evolving consumer expectations, you must also consider how to enable fast and accurate delivery. Over the past decade, e-commerce delivery times have decreased from five to two days, and now market trends suggest next-day and same-day delivery may become the new normal. To remain competitive and keep pace with consumer demands, your operation requires sophistication. Leverage new technologies such as voice commands, pick-to-light, put walls and automated conveyance systems to set your business apart.
3. Optimize operations
Warehouse design and workforce optimization drives efficiency in your overall operation. Effective design can mean decreased picking times if products are placed logically throughout the facility and can even prevent you from unnecessarily expanding your real estate footprint. As you work to implement new technologies, recruiting and retaining a highly trained team is critical. Prioritize building out your industrial engineering and human resource expertise internally or through experienced third parties with a proven track record for facility optimization, workforce recruitment and development programs.
4. Enable easy returns
With the growth of e-commerce and a corresponding increase in returns, end consumers demand an easy returns process, and merchants often scramble to construct reverse logistics capabilities to meet consumer expectations. Managing returns is complex and can be costly due to extra transportation costs, integrated IT systems, redundant processes and credit-processing capabilities, but the investment can pay off in customer loyalty. Research shows 89% of online shoppers say return policies determine where they shop, and 70% of shoppers buy something else when returning items in a store.
Working with an experienced third-party logistics (3PL) company can be the best way to implement and manage the complexities of an omnichannel strategy. The right 3PL will work with you to develop the best approach for your business and will leverage technology to support your business needs. The expertise of a 3PL can help you get the most out of your warehouse space, manage current and future inventory, fulfill orders quickly and accurately, and manage returns cost-effectively.
Our team here at FedEx Logistics is committed to supporting the success of our customers. We have been recognized in the industry for our extensive experience in warehouse design, process management, order fulfillment and reverse logistics. Connect with us today to learn more about our solutions.